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January 15, 2016 // 12:00 PM

The Co-Founder of Flickr’s Unorthodox Tip For Productive Meetings

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If I were to describe an office responsibility we all have as boring, annoying, useless, unproductive, unnecessary, and tedious, what would you guess that task is?

Did meetings come to mind?

Turns out, the words above are how 1,000 people described the get-togethers we all have on our calendars. Further research revealed the reasons people despise meetings: 76% of survey respondents said they aren’t necessary while 59% said they don’t stay on topic.

However, some meetings are necessary to ensure that teams get and stay on the same page. With this in mind, managers are often tasked with brainstorming creative ways to make these get-togethers as painless and productive as possible.

Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr, discovered her team had a multitude of meetings on the calendar that were unproductive and limited the amount of time they could spend doing important tasks. So she created a unique solution to put an end to unproductive meetings:

Before every get together, she instructed her team drink a 16-ounce glass of water. Once the first person in the meeting had to use the facilities, the meeting was over.

Here’s how Fake explained this tactic to Inc.:

"At the very beginning of the meeting we all had these 16-ounce pint glasses of water, and everyone would drink it before the meeting would begin. I think a 32-ounce Slurpee would do the job even better," she said. "The meeting would end when the first person had to go to the bathroom. It was super effective."

So how did this help end unproductive meetings? The staff only had a limited amount of time to discuss goals and items. This immediately made the organizer prioritize the most important topics to discuss. With such limited time, side conversations ceased and attendees carefully focused their attention on the person talking.

While this strategy is unorthodox -- to say the least -- Fake says it achieved its intended goal by helping to cut back unproductive meetings.

In today’s business world, meetings are a necessary evil. But when employees know their time is limited, and they need to share important information quickly, meetings can be an effective weapon for any team. And sometimes ensuring productive meetings is simply a matter of chugging some water beforehand.

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Topics: Productivity

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